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DWU women ranked just out of top 25, have tall order this week

Simply put, it's going to be a tough week for the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team.

The Tigers, who last week improved their record to 8-2 with two victories, match up with two of the top three ranked teams in the nation in the next four days. Both are Great Plains Athletic Conference games.

At 6 p.m. today, DWU hosts third-ranked Morningside at the Corn Palace. Saturday, Wesleyan travels to top-ranked Concordia. Even one win this week would mean huge things for the program, which went 6-25 in 2010-11, head coach Jason Christensen's first season.

Christensen said one of the team's goals this year was to be ranked before the holiday break. It took a nice step in that direction over the weekend, when DWU defeated No. 25 Hastings College Saturday at the Corn Palace.

Christensen is hoping his team can ride that momentum into tonight's game.

"These kids want to be rated," Christensen said. "They have to have another good week this week to do that, and we have a good opportunity in playing Morningside and Concordia. If we can beat one of those two teams, we have a great chance to be rated."

Although Wesleyan -- is 2-1 in league play -- defeated a nationally ranked team over the weekend, it wasn't able to crack the most recent top 25 poll, released Tuesday by the NAIA.

The Tigers received 45 votes in the poll, which is conducted by coaches across the nation. The 25th-ranked team, Saint Mary, of Kansas, received 55 points and Menlo, of California, received 51 points.

Christensen said it didn't surprise him his team didn't make the top 25. Still, he's hoping his players use it as motivation headed into tonight.

Morningside is 6-1 on the season, 2-1 in the conference and received 289 points in the national poll to move from fourth last week to third.

Chelsie Trask leads the Mustangs in scoring at 15.6 points per game. Ashlynn Muhl averages 11.38 points and a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game.

"They're athletic and they score a lot off turnovers," said Christensen, whose team has the top-scoring threat in the conference in Kim Johnson, averaging 21.2 points per game. "They do a lot of the same things as Briar Cliff, and we lost to them by 15 points earlier.

"But, we're preparing the same way we prepare against anyone else. Not doing anything differently. We'll roll the ball out and play and see what happens."

If the Tigers are unable to beat Morningside tonight, they'll have a bigger task Saturday when they play the top-ranked team in the nation on the road in Concordia, which has four players averaging double-digit scoring figures.

"A win would be a feather in our cap," Christensen said.